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Low-Income Students Most Harmed by Gov's Plan to Cut School Support Staff

June 22, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. - Gov. Tim Kaine's office wants to close the state's $3.7 billion shortfall in part by cutting funding for school secretaries and other support personnel. The plan would eliminate state funding for 13,000 school positions.

Sarah Geddes is an attorney for the JustChildren Program of the state's Legal Aid Justice Center. She says the cuts will be felt deepest in the poorest school districts.

"These are the very students who could benefit from the departments in the schools that are slated for cuts, such as guidance, school attendance, school social work and health workers."

State education officials say the cuts are necessary because of revenue shortfalls, and that cutting support positions is preferable to cutting teachers.

Geddes notes that the state is not cutting expectations for student performance, which means the cutbacks could end up costing the state more in the long run, as more students have to repeat grades or drop out of school altogether.

"Low-income students in Virginia are almost twice as likely as their more affluent peers not to graduate high school on time, so they need these services. Cutting them is only going to exacerbate existing inequities."

The governor's office says the cuts would save the state more than $340 million in salaries and benefits, beginning in fiscal year 2010.

Additional information is available from Sarah Geddes at (804)643-1086 x110.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA